It’s funny how things work out sometimes. You guys know I’m not much for guest posts – I’ve done maybe 3 over the course of 4 years. Although I do get requests for them fairly frequently, it’s not often that I feel like the topics really resonate with me. So, imagine my surprise when I received two great requests in one week! Since I’m on a trip of my own, it felt like the perfect time to take a bit of a break to unwind. The first guest post for this week is Melissa Murphy of Dances with Shadows. Melissa recently contacted me via email after reading one of my columns in Women’s Running magazine and checking out my blog. She struggles with depression and relates to my experience fighting anxiety, but what resonated the most with me were her strategies for battling her issues. Like me and like many of you, she turns to fitness and travel! When she sent me her post about the power of solo travel, I knew it was absolutely perfect for this week. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
While staring down at the ocean from a hang glider or zip lining through the towering Douglas Firs in Oregon, your problems tend to appear much smaller. This is a welcomed reprieve if you reflect on how long a particular issue has wreaked havoc on your mind. Life with depression plagues you with simultaneous emotions you cannot control and it can be overwhelming. I was experiencing this exact inner turbulence when I made the decision to go on my first solo trip. The problem, initially, was that I had no one to go with. “I can’t go on a vacation alone, that’s not normal!” I thought. But I needed to get away; at the time, I needed to feel something other than nothing. I’d been going through the motions of everyday as I was supposed to and the numbness was taking its toll. So I took a leap with only myself in mind and booked my first solo trip. It’s been an annual tradition ever since and I appear to be getting progressively more daring!
I’ve discovered that while sharing a life alongside depression, it is paramount that you identify an arsenal of weapons for yourself. One of my weapons over the past couple of years has been my solo trips. Depression is known to manifest negative attributes such as insecurity or self-doubt and I’ve come to experience a regression in those attributes following my travels. There are inherent potential remedies in a solo adventure that have countered the effects of my depression or have simply cleared the fog that it had caused. Taking a trip alone launches you out of your comfort zone and pushes the limits on your independence that you would never go past otherwise. When there is no one familiar around you, you have no choice other than to depend upon yourself. All the reservations that were at home and the people that might have interfered with decisions or feelings are not there. It is up to you to navigate around a foreign place with unfamiliar people and over time, that can foster or re-establish confidence and self-assurance.
If the sole act of tackling a strange place on your own doesn’t stir up some internal pride,then maybe the activities you choose to do while there will. For example, I have this rule that wherever I decide to go, there must be something unique to do. So far these “unique” activities have been adventurous and adrenaline-filled things not available to do on a daily basis. I’ve been hang-gliding in Florida over the ocean where I looked down and caught a glimpse of a pod of dolphins. People waved at me from the sandy beach below, and while up there, a sense of freedom I had never felt enveloped me. How could I be numb in a moment like that? I couldn’t be. There I was above everyone, staring out over an enormous natural wonder, at a time in my life when I tended to be the one always looked down on. Then there was zip-lining 120 ft. in the air through a richly green forest in the Pacific Northwest of Oregon. It was as if I was “Jane of the Jungle,” cruising past trees and surrounded by nature man had yet to destroy. During that excursion, I had liked the idea of becoming a hermit and living in a secluded cabin, so I felt brave partaking in those types of activities – another point towards self-esteem!
Another advantage to solo traveling is all the new, intriguing people you come across. I am sure everyone can relate at one point or another to finding yourself surrounded by people that may not be helping what you are going through. Nothing makes depression worse than being in a bad situation or being surrounded by people who add to the negativity. Negative people and situations are sure to occur every once in a while, but experiencing new people and places can be beneficial. It is a welcomed change when you are introduced to a person whose words end up encouraging you or you meet someone so nice that you start wondering how to get more people like that into your life.
When I show up to my destination of choice, it’s as if the slate has been wiped clean, even if just temporarily. There is something about the solo travel experience that tends to foster many positive traits for me. It fosters the desire to change whatever negativity I have been dealing with and it fosters an awareness of inner strength.
Of course, these things are not cures to depression, but as I mentioned previously, they are weapons I utilize. It is a morbid truth of depression that there’s no cure-all; what works for one person may not always work for another. That’s why I believe it is so important to identify the arsenal of weapons that alleviate its effects for each individual and helps them to keep pushing forward. Be a warrior and seek help when needed because depression is not to be down played or ignored. You only get one life; if it has to be a life shared with depression, then give it a run for its money! I know I am, and solo travel is one of many ways my battle year in and year out.
In an effort to connect with other like-minded individuals and track my growth and progress, I decided to document my journey on my blog, Dances with Shadows.
P.S – My next solo adventure will be *drum roll*… Ireland in April! It will be my first overseas trip, and I am so excited to step even further outside of my comfort zone. Depression might come with me, but that’s one piece of baggage I wouldn’t mind losing along the way.